Scheffler, Rahm, and Rory: Assessing golf’s new Triumvirate

Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, 2023 WM Phoenix Open,Syndication: Arizona Republic
Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, 2023 WM Phoenix Open,Syndication: Arizona Republic /
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Triumvirate, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy
2013 Masters Tournament, (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) /

Arnie, Gary, and Jack

For most golfers of a certain age, the game’s original threesome emerged during the early 1960s. By 1962, Arnold Palmer was wrapping up his fifth and sixth Major wins, Gary Player was claiming his third, and Jack Nicklaus – a Tour rookie –was breaking through in a playoff against Palmer at the U.S. Open.

Among the three, they held all four of the season’s Major titles. The 1962 season was also the first when they appeared together in made-for-TV private matches…the surest sign of all of group dominance.

The PGA Tour official scoring averages do not reach back into the early 1960s, but it is possible to fairly accurately reconstruct data by using newspaper records. This is what they show.

Palmer was the Tour leader with a 70.21 stroke average. That was about 1.75 strokes better than the 71.94 average for players who completed enough official rounds to accumulate a legitimate season-long average. It puts Palmer’s Relative Stroke Average for the season at .971.

Player actually ranked third for the season, slightly behind Bill Casper, a player whose reputation did not admit him into the realm of the Big 3 but who could at that time claim a Major, the 1959 U.S. Open. Player, whose PGA title was his second Major (having already won the 1959 British Open), compiled a 70.72 stroke average that translates to a .978 Relative Stroke Average.

Nicklaus, the Tour rookie, had not yet developed the consistency that would soon mark his efforts. Even so, the U.S. Open champion finished that first professional year with a 70.97 scoring average, ninth best on Tour. His Relative Scoring Average was .982.

That set the 1962 average for the Palmer-Player-Nicklaus Triumvirate at .977. It’s a very good average, although over the course of 1,000 strokes, it happens to be five strokes off the 2023 pace being set by Scheffler, Rahm, and McIlroy.